Speed Reading...

With a few weeks left to endure before Daytona, I thought maybe I could post a few suggestions of NASCAR books to read - I had to create this for work (isn't my job FAB?!), and thought it might help us poor souls with nothing to do until the green flag drops. So grab your library card and get reading!

(in alphabetical order by author)

· Assael, Shaun. Wide Open: Days and Nights on the NASCAR Tour. Ballantine Books: 1998. 335 pages.

· Though this was written in 1998, Assael's book was one of the first to give details into the days and nights of a full NASCAR season from the perspective of the drivers and teams. Assael spent 31 weeks with Bobby Hamilton, Dave Marcis and Brett Bodine to lend a new perspective to what happens when the cameras are off, the races aren't on, and the teams have to make what they do look like magic. An interesting and well-researched book.

· Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul. Health Communications, Inc: 2003. 269 pages.

· The secondary title for this collection is "Inspirational Stories of Courage, Speed and Overcoming Adversity", which perfectly sums up what can be expected from this work. With contributions from race fans, race writers and race car drivers themselves, it offers many perspectives on the fastest-growing sport in America.

· Earnhardt Jr, Dale. Driver #8. Warner Books: 2002. 298 pages.

· This autobiography chronicles a "year in the life" of Dale Earnhardt Jr - namely, his 2000 rookie season Winston Cup. At times, the Earnhardt Jr in this tale is swaggering, full of humility, funny or embarrassed, but always honest and very much himself. A must-read for Dale Earnhardt Jr fans, and for fans who want to know more about the "future face of NASCAR".

· Edelstein, Robert. NASCAR Generations: The Legacy of Family in NASCAR Racing. HarperEntertainment: 2000. 239 pages.

· Everyone knows the family names in NASCAR - Earnhardt, Petty, Jarrett, Labonte, Burton - but this book gives further insight into the role of family throughout the evolution of NASCAR. Discusses rivalries, growing up in the sport, the early days of racing, and some of the most successful families in the sport, all in an easily readable, entertaining style.

· Gordon, Jeff. Racing Back to the Front - My Memoir. Atria Books: 2003. 272 pages.

· This is truly Jeff's story - from small kid on the block to a superstar on the racing circuit. Jeff's memoir is honest, witty and professional - detailing more about his trials and tribulations as a teen breaking into the sport than about his rock-star-style life, divorce or current flame. A quick read at under 300 pages, in a crisp and easy prose style than any fan could enjoy. If Gordon wasn't likable before, this book will definitely make him more so for the non-fan.

· Hembree, Mike. The Definitive History of America's Sport. HarperEntertainment: 2000. 202 pages.

· This large volume celebrates the history of NASCAR mostly by way of numerous dazzling photos, accompanied by Hembree's text and explanations of the humble beginnings of the sport and focuses on various aspects of the sport - safety inspection, short tracks, milestones and more. Though an above-average sized book, the pictures alone are worth the weight.

· Hinton, Ed. Daytona: From the Birth of Speed to the Death of the Man in Black. Warner Books: 2001. 380 pages.

· Hinton's book was released within several months of the passing of Dale Earnhardt, and is partly a NASCAR history lesson, partly a peek into the lives of the some of the most famous drivers, and even a glimpse into the rivalries that exist within the sport. Hinton is a senior writer for the Tribune News Service and a former senior writer for Sports Illustrated - and he's done his homework with this all-encompassing volume.

· Huler, Scott. A Little Bit Sideways. Motorbooks International: 1999. 256 pages.

· Fans looking for the "inside view" of NASCAR should look no further than Huler's book. Huler trails Kenny Wallace (a character in his own right) through a week of racing - qualifying, racing, shop time, the fans, the haulers, everything. Huler's book is quick-paced, entertaining, easy to read and gives the reader the feel that they are truly "part of the team" and no more than the average fan about a race week.

· McLaurin, Jim. NASCAR'S Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Outrageous Drivers, Wild Wrecks and Other Oddities. Brassey's, Inc: 2001. 235 pages.

· This enjoyable book is truly what the title says: a collection of "top ten lists" with such topics as "On a Hot Streak", "Fudgin' With the Rules", and "Weird at the Wire". Fans and non-fans alike will learn new things, remember things from the past, and have a good chuckle while they do it. An imminently easy and entertaining read.

· Menzer, Joe. The Wildest Ride: Or How a Bunch of Good Ol' Boys Built a Billion-Dollar Industry Out of Wrecking Cars. Simon and Schuster: 2001. 331 pages.

· Fans new and old to NASCAR will delight in this quick-paced, easily read volume about the humble beginnings of NASCAR. Stories, history lessons and driver profiles are found in the pages, and fans will love the stories of the less-than-angelic drivers, the risks taken on by so many of the early drivers, and will learn more about the family racing legacies such as the Pettys, the Earnhardts, the Allisons, and the Alabama Gang. A well-researched and highly interesting book. A must for newbies and veterans alike.

· Miller, G. Wayne. Men and Speed: A Wild Ride Through NASCAR's Breakout Season. PublicAffairs: 2002. 302 pages.

· This is an in-depth look at 2001's Winston Cup racing season, as lived by the Roush Racing stable in NASCAR. Interesting, insightful and an easy read for any fan of NASCAR - though it clearly focuses on the lives, careers and beginnings of Jack Roush and his stable of Winston Cup drivers (Kenseth, Martin, Burton and Busch).

· Montville, Leigh. At the Altar of Speed: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of Dale Earnhardt. Doubleday: 2001. 203 pages.

· This biography details the life of Dale Earnhardt, from his small-time, small-money no-future beginning to his ascension as one of the most popular, richest and most beloved race car drivers until his untimely death in 2001 during the Daytona 500. Montville has written a fitting tribute to such a looming legend in this biography.

· NASCAR: The Thunder of America. HarperHorizon: 1998. 200 pages.

· This volume reflects the first 50 years of NASCAR racing (1948-1998) in the most fitting way - by using high color, high quality photos, captioning all that is included, and choosing only to clutter pages with the occasional quote. A book that speaks volumes with its photography, and makes any NASCAR fan just that much prouder of their pastime.

· Speedweeks: 10 Days at Daytona. HarperEntertainment: 2000. 188 pages.

· This book features glossy photos detailing every aspect of the most hectic time in NASCAR Winston Cup racing - Speedweeks at Daytona. Features pictures of drivers, crews, cars and crowds with accompanying text by Sandra McKee. The perfect picture book to get ramped up about racing when February rolls around again.

· Wright, Jim. Fixin' to Git: One Fan's Love Affair with NASCAR's Winston Cup. Duke University Press: 2002. 305 pages.

· Wright, a professor at the University of Central Florida, took a yearlong "sabbatical" from his teaching to feed his "need for speed". This resulting book discusses his travels, the circus that is NASCAR, and essentially serves as a "valentine" to the sport that has quickly taken over the nation from its ever so humble roots.